If a loved one in your life, especially your child, has autism, you have nowhere to go but to shower that person with your unconditional love.
You have to understand that autism spectrum disorder or ASD can happen to anyone – children, teens and adults – and you have to deal with their condition for as long as you can.
It helps to be oriented with what causes their autism meltdowns every now and then and how to prepare for them. It also enhances your handling of the situation when you have intimate knowledge of the person’s personality.
WHAT IS A MELTDOWN IN AUTISM?
It is an intense reaction to overwhelming scenarios by an individual. This means that person can’t take in what is happening (with all the sensory overload) at the moment and loses control of self.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON CAUSES OF MELTDOWNS?
There are specific triggers to meltdowns. They would include the following:
** Learning incapacity. The inability to comprehend a scenario, activity or issue could lead to frustration on the part of the autistic individual.
** ADHD. If that person lacks the ability to deal with boredom or to focus on something, it can lead to an outburst.
** Sensory issues. For example, if that individual can’t hear well or see well an audio or visual element which others can do without difficulty, they will question themselves and become hysterical.
** Anxiety. When faced with an uncomfortable situation which that person have to deal with, it could lead to a meltdown.
** Lack of skills. This could make the individual feel inferior and lead to an outburst.
** Challenging situations. If that person can’t tackle a situation which requires smarts, brawn or both, this leads to frustration and a meltdown.
HOW TO MELTDOWNS LOOK LIKE
They are reflected in a number of ways which the autistic person exhibits. Look for these signs below:
** Each autistic person is unique. It could be a verbal sign like crying or shouting. It can be a physical gesture like biting or kicking.
** The person could zone out, withdraw from reality, shut out, stare into space or make repetitive movements.
** The crying the person does could be uncontrollable or that person will even scream and growl and then curl up into a human ball.
** The meltdown could be preceded by stimming. These are repetitive self stimulatory behaviors such as spinning, shaking, rocking and hand flapping.
** These body movements which are repeated over and over involve all the five senses or it will involve the moving of objects.
** To make themselves calm, the person will pace around, ask questions repeatedly, rock back and forth, and/or hold their body very still.
Note them down. All these signs above are distress signals which are also called the Rumble State. They are windows of opportunities to prevent a meltdown. This is precious time to avoid the exhausting scenario of a meltdown, both for you and the autistic person. But if a meltdown do occur, be comforted in having the luxury of knowing the following alternative actions to prevent the meltdown from blowing up:
DEALING WITH MELTDOWNS FOR THE LONG TERM
Meltdowns can occur anytime in the lifetime of an adult person. If you are taking care of this individual, you handle these episodes two ways – through long term mechanisms and through present moment tactics.
These are the long term mechanisms which we recommend:
** Calming Routines. Let the person be used to relaxing music. Walk with them throughout the neighborhood. Snug them in with a favorite stuffed toy. Make these consistent.
** Use of Calming Devices. Even when not in a panicky situation, make the individual get used to calming devices like a fidget toy or a portable massage device.
** Make your home safe. Be sure that safety measures are in place throughout your house. This is because meltdowns can occur anytime and autistic individuals are prone to accidents in the home because of their unpredictable movements.
** Diary or journal keeping. Keep a record of what happens during a meltdown. Or what you did before to prevent one. We tend to forget some important events which eventually help us in the present when we read them in the journal we keep.
** As much as possible, be physically present for that special person. If you can spend more quality time with this beloved individual, it will minimize the chances of a meltdown because that person will feel your unconditional concern and love and that is very reassuring.
DEALING WITH THE MELTDOWN AS IT HAPPENS
This is the impromptu part. It unpredictably happens and you should take control of the situation.
** Stay calm all throughout. Do not add to the stress of the situation by being hysterical yourself. Control your emotions.
** This is not the time to be logical. Be patient. You can’t reason it out with the person having a meltdown at this very moment. No amount of logical arguments can get through the person. Wait it out.
** Empathy at this time will work. If the individual wants to talk, let it all flow out. Don’t interrupt. Let that person be the center of attention of your life at that very moment of the meltdown.
** Never give punishment. It will make that person more embarrassed and confused. Even that individual can’t control the meltdowns.
** The calming devices should always be around. It would help if the fidget toy or anything that symbolizes comfort to the autistic person is brought along all the time, especially in public. It will calm the nerves of that person.